Hackers can’t be stopped with a single solution. Users are usually the weakest link and social engineering is the most effective venue for fringe actors who scam victims.
Every time I see one of the news stories that lists the most vulnerable industries to cybercriminals, my concern is different than the majority of readers.
These industries are suffering from terrible things. My biggest fear is that companies in those industries, especially smaller ones without a lot of IT experience, might see these stories as proof that they can relax their cyber security.
My company has been working with hundreds of companies over the years and I can confirm that cybercriminals are looking for every type of business. Below is what I mean.
Next, I'll share some steps that your organization can take to protect your company's data and strengthen your digital infrastructure. This is regardless of whether you are in the top industry for hackers or not.
What Hackers Share in Common
These were the top seven industries targeted by IBM Security's 2022 X Force Threat Intelligence Index in 2021.
- Insurance and finance
- Services of a professional
- Wholesale and retail
The list shows a wide range of data types, IT environment sophistication, and data contents. The common thread that unites all these industries, as well as government, education, and media (which make up the top ten IBM list), is that cybercriminals have found ways of monetizing all these companies' data. These are just a few of the many examples.
- Financial and healthcare institutions have a lot of sensitive and personal data about their customers. This data is easily sold on the dark internet by hackers.
- Many suppliers and subcontractors are important to manufacturers and transport companies. IBM claims that many of these hacks were used by hackers to access the systems of the companies and redirect payments intended for partners into accounts controlled by the cybercriminals.
- All of these companies depend on their digital systems and data to run their day. Ransomware is still a popular strategy for hackers as they can lock out companies of their data and pay a ransom to get it back.
Cybercriminals Could Make a Profit From Your Data
Cybercriminals have discovered many creative ways to monetize corporate data. This makes it clear why data types don't matter. It doesn't matter what cybercriminals do with your data. All that matters is how they can turn it into money (or crypto currency).
Is our company allowed to collect or maintain personal information on customers? For example, addresses, phone numbers, and credit card information.
Do we keep mission-critical data that, regardless of its value to criminals in underground markets, we can't afford to lose because it would affect our business operations?
If you answered yes to both questions, which it most likely is, then you should implement cybersecurity measures that are similar in principle to the top-targeted companies.
Before we get into the details, let me dispel a dangerous myth that I have heard repeatedly. Because hackers are busy pursuing big-fish Fortune 500 companies and other household-name firms, many companies believe that their small size will make them immune to cyberattacks. The opposite is true.
Research from 2022 Forbes shows that small businesses are three times more likely to become the target of cybercriminals than larger companies.
There are steps you can take to protect your data and make it harder for hackers to access your digital infrastructure.
How to Protect Your Data From Cyberattacks
This could be a long list of steps, processes, and tools. My advice will be limited to the most important steps that you should take. This is a starting point for your wider cybersecurity initiative.
1. Your Staff Should be Educated
Cybercriminals love manipulating employees to infiltrate corporate systems because it is so effective.
Examples include embedding malicious codes in email attachments or links and convincing recipients to click them.
These are the most common methods used to attack cybercrime. It stands to reason that your company's vulnerability will be reduced if your employees are taught the basics, starting with how to not open attachments from unknown senders.
2. Make Sure Your Digital Systems are Up-to-Date
Cybercrime is like all other forms of crime. It's a game between bad actors and their victims. Hackers discover a way to exploit an application or network, then the creators of the solution update it to fix the vulnerability. Hackers then search for a weakness in the system and repeat the process.
This is a basic cybersecurity 101 strategy. This is a common mistake that many companies make. Especially when employees use hundreds of apps every day to perform their jobs. It can be overwhelming to keep track of this vast digital infrastructure.
Yes, it can be time-consuming to monitor your entire IT environment for patches, fixes, or updates. Failing to do this could lead to a story about your company being hacked.
3. Get a Team of Experts to Look After Your Back
As I mentioned above, this list could be hundreds of pages long and include tips like:
- Employ multifactor authentication
- Encrypt all corporate communications and data
- Plan to protect and oversee all mobile devices.
- Install firewall security in your corporate environment
- Install a disaster recovery and cloud backup infrastructure
- Establish and enforce rules for password strength and updates by employees
Outsourcing Your Worries
If your company lacks the IT resources or the expertise to handle this project, reviewing vendors and solutions could be more time-consuming than you have available.
Partnering with an organization that creates and manages cyber environments for businesses is the best and most cost-effective way to strengthen your company's cybersecurity defenses.
My advice is to find a Managed Security Service Provider, (MSSP), with a reputation for protecting data from high-risk organizations. Then turn over this complex cybersecurity project to them.